Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 26th, 2015

Amazing snooker mastery: Ronnie O’Sullivan clears two frames in 2014 Welsh open

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Just to reprise the rules of snooker:each time you pot a red ball (1 point) you can pot any numbered ball and get that many points. Until all the red balls are sunk, each time you pot a numbered ball, it is replaced on its original position at the opening of the game. Once all the red balls are sunk (and the numbered ball after the final red ball), then you must pot the numbered balls in order, 2 (yellow) through 7 (black).

In the first sequence, Barry Hawkins is ahead 58 – 0, misses, and O’Sullivan plays some good safety shots, leaving Hawkins snookered: the cue ball placed so it has no shot at the reds. In the second, Hawkins is ahead even more, 64 – 0.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2015 at 9:35 pm

Posted in Games, Video

Meditation Helped Me Survive Death Row and 19 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

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Damien Echols has an interesting article in Motherboard:

I am a magician.

I don’t pull rabbits out of hats, saw attractive young women in half, or wear a tuxedo. I practice magick, spelled with a “k” in order to differentiate it from slight of hand, and once upon a time I was sentenced to death for it.

My name is Damien Echols, and in 1993 I was arrested for three counts of capital murder in the town of West Memphis, Arkansas. Nine months later I was sentenced to death, and spent almost 19 years on death row before being released in 2011 when new evidence came to light.

Prison is a dark and stagnant place. It’s filled with the most cold, horrendous energy you can imagine. It feels like a kind of psychic filth that penetrates into your very soul.

Much of magick is about is learning to change states of consciousness at will. I learned to use meditation and ritual as shields. They prevented the hellish energy of prison from changing me and making me more like the people all around me—people who had given up on even trying to be human.

This is a story about how I kept my sanity.

***

I fell in love with magick when I was first learning to read and realized that such a thing existed. At about the age of twelve I discovered the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and my life changed forever. The Golden Dawn was an order of ceremonial magicians that lived in the mid to late 1800s in England, and included such luminaries as W.B. Yeats, Pamela Coleman Smith, who painted the artwork we now know as the Rider-Waite tarot deck, and the notorious Aleister Crowley.

Crowley was the person who deigned that magick be spelled with a “k.” He was also a big part of the reason I was sentenced to death.

In 1993, when three eight year old boys were found murdered in my small town, attention immediately turned to me. Why? Because I was the town weirdo. I dressed in all black, had long hair, and listened to heavy metal music. As if this wasn’t enough to make me suspect in a small, hardcore fundamentalist town in the midst of the era of Satanic panic, I also practiced magick. Some of the most damning evidence brought against me during the trial was my love of knowledge of Crowley, and the fact that I owned Stephen King novels.

If you want to know more about the case, watch any of the Paradise Lostdocumentaries about it, as well as West of Memphis, the documentary I myself was a producer on. You could also read my book, Life After Death.

My interest in magick may have contributed to my being sentenced to death, but it was also a huge part of what allowed me to survive for the better part of two decades in the American prison system.

***

For a huge chunk of my incarceration—nearly nine years—I was in a super maximum security unit prison, where I spent 24 hours a day in solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement is like living in a vacuum in which no comforts exist. You spend every single moment alone, with nothing to distract you from the horror of your situation and no contact with anything or anyone that can possibly provide you with a shred of hope. Time ceases to exist, as there is no way to mark its passage. Noon is the same as midnight. Christmas is the same as the Fourth of July. All you can do is sit with your fears, waiting for the next time the guards decide to hurt you.

It was here that I decided to dedicate every single waking moment of my life to delving deeper and deeper into the realm of magick.

I had several teachers I corresponded with, including the priest of a Japanese zen temple who would travel from Japan to the prison in Arkansas to give me ordination in the Rinzai Zen tradition of Japanese Buddhism, the same tradition that used to train the samurai in older times. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2015 at 1:14 pm

John Hope Franklin: Race & the Meaning of America

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Drew Gilpin Faust has a good essay in the NY Review of Books, well worth reading:

. . . Defying, not crying. That captures John Hope Franklin’s life, and it captures the history he wrote, a history that would, in his words, “attempt to rehabilitate a whole people” and serve them as a weapon of collective defiance. Inspired by a brilliant teacher at Fisk University, Franklin came to see how “historical traditions have controlled…attitudes and conduct,” and how changing history, challenging the truth of the “hallowed past,” was the necessary condition for changing the present and future. In important ways, the study of history was for Franklin not a choice; it was an imperative. “The true scholar,” he wrote in 1963, “must pursue truth in his field; he must, as it were, ply his trade…. If one tried to escape,…he would be haunted;…he would be satisfied in no other pursuit.” History, in the many meanings of the term, chose him.

But the “Negro scholar,” Franklin wrote, should not imagine he could disappear into an ivory tower. The choice to “turn his back on the world” was not available. From Jonathan Edwards, to Thomas Jefferson, to Ralph Waldo Emerson, to John Kenneth Galbraith, Franklin observed, the American scholar had been drawn into policy and the practical. The black scholar must fully embrace this tradition of American intellectual life. “I now assert,” Franklin proclaimed,

that the proper choice for the American Negro scholar is to use his history and ingenuity, his resources and talents, to combat the forces that isolate him and his people and, like the true patriot that he is, to contribute to the solution of the problems that all Americans face in common.

Fundamental to the task at hand would be rewriting the history of history, revising the “hallowed” falsehoods, illustrating how the abuse and misuse of history served to legitimate systems of oppression not just in the past but in the present as well. Misrepresentations of the past, Franklin came to recognize, had given “the white South the intellectual justification for its determination not to yield on many important points, especially in its treatment of the Negro.” Post–Civil War southerners had endeavored to “win with the pen what they had failed to win with the sword.”

Franklin detailed the way the antebellum South rewrote the history of the American Revolution to justify its increasing commitment to slavery, how the popular history represented by the 1915 film Birth of a Nation worked to justify the early-twentieth-century revival of the Klan, how in a volume commissioned for a prominent series on southern history, respected historian E. Merton Coulter’s racist assumptions produced a distorted view of Reconstruction that made an implicit argument against the extension of civil rights in the years immediately following World War II.

But Franklin did not simply critique and revise; he did not just overturn existing interpretations by bringing a different lens to bear, or even by just grounding the narrative of the past in what were quite revolutionary assumptions of common human capacity and dignity. Franklin, the scholar, unearthed reams of new facts—facts no one had bothered to look for previously, facts buried in archives, newspapers, government records, facts no historian had searched for until history decided black lives mattered.

Franklin’s approach to the doing of history is perhaps most faithfully and explicitly chronicled in the introduction to his biography of the nineteenth-century African-American historian George Washington Williams. A pioneer in charting the black experience, Williams, who died in 1891, had been all but forgotten until Franklin began “stalking” him. Franklin recounts the story of how over three decades he traveled to countless offices, libraries, and archives on three continents. He pursued clues and leads with imagination and unquenchable curiosity until he was able to piece together a full portrait of the man and his work. Franklin rescued Williams from oblivion to install him in his rightful place as a pathbreaking black intellectual, a precursor to Franklin himself in creating a true history of the nation’s past and the place of African-Americans within it. . .

. . .

Even Franklin, who had personally felt the brunt of segregation, who had understood the terrors of racial violence and oppression, was sobered by what he found. WritingFrom Slavery to Freedom, piecing together a comprehensive account of five hundred years of black history, brought tales of horror before his eyes:

I had seen one slave ship after another…pile black human cargo into its bowels…. I had seen them dump my ancestors at New World ports as they would a load of cattle and wait smugly for their pay…. I had seen them beat black men…and rape black women until their ecstasy was spent leaving their brutish savagery exposed. I had heard them shout, “Give us liberty or give us death,” and not mean one word of it…. I had seen them lynch black men and distribute their ears, fingers, and other parts as souvenirs…. I had seen it all, and in the seeing I had become bewildered and yet in the process lost my own innocence.

The past and present of racial oppression in America angered Franklin. His own treatment in graduate school, in the profession, in humiliating incidents that occurred till the very last years of his life provoked him to express his outrage—in autobiographical writings and in what he called “literary efforts” that he refrained from publishing. He was scrupulous and insistent that such emotions and any of what he called “polemics” or “diatribes” should not “pollute” his scholarly work. Yet he acknowledged that “the task of remaining calm and objective is indeed a formidable one.” . . .

The entire essay is well worth reading and thought provoking: How should US history be taught in our schools? What should citizens of the US know of the history of their own country and culture? Is it important to mislead citizens about what actually happened? If so, who decides which false picture to present?

Consider this latter passage in the essay:

. . . In April 1992, while Franklin was in the air en route to the University of Missouri to deliver a series of endowed lectures, a Simi Valley, California, jury announced the acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers who had beaten Rodney King. By the time he reached the St. Louis airport, Los Angeles had erupted in riots that ultimately killed fifty-three people before the California National Guard was summoned to quell the violence. For Franklin, these events seemed a tragic affirmation of the argument at the core of his already-prepared Missouri lectures: racism, “the most tragic and persistent social problem in the nation’s history,” had not been eliminated—even with the notable progress of the civil rights movement. As W.E.B. Du Bois had proclaimed the problem of the twentieth century to be “the problem of the color line—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea,” so now Franklin cast his eyes forward to declare it the fundamental challenge for the twenty-first. “I venture to state categorically,” he proclaimed, “that the problem of the twenty-first century will be the problem of the color line.”

And again (or still) he worried about willful distortions of history—this time including more recent emerging histories—that threatened to undermine the nation’s capacity to confront and eliminate racial injustice. The myth of a colorblind society, often erected upon a cynical celebration of the achievements of civil rights legislation and the Voting Rights Act, was being developed in the 1980s and 1990s, Franklin believed, to end the struggle for racial equality by proclaiming it already achieved. “A color-blind society does not exist in the United States,” Franklin stated emphatically to his Missouri audience, “and never has existed.” But to advance the myth, Franklin asserted, was not simply a delusion; it was a far more pernicious act of bad faith. “Those who insist we should conduct ourselves as if such a utopian state already existed have no interest in achieving it and, indeed, would be horrified if we even approached it.”

Brown v. Board of Education had, in Franklin’s words, been “no magic wand.” “Litigation, legislation, and executive implementation, however effective some of it was, did not wipe away three centuries of slavery, degradation, segregation, and discrimination.” Color remained “a major consideration in virtually everything Americans thought, said, or did.” Rodney King’s beating was clear testimony to the persisting force of race. Today, more than twenty years later, Franklin could deliver the same message. We are neither colorblind nor post-racial. Franklin would have been deeply saddened, but I doubt he would have been surprised, by the events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Charleston, Cleveland, Baltimore. He would have been equally saddened and, one guesses, angered by the recent evisceration of the Voting Rights Act and by the threat to student body diversity in higher education implied by the Supreme Court’s decision to reconsider Fisher v.University of Texas. . .

And in this context I will again point out Kevin Drum’s excellent post on how the Democrats lost the white South. It’s relevant because it provides a clear example of how history, even if not acknowledged, shapes the present.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2015 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

Tagged with

Excellent clear example of corruption: Rep. Roger Williams (R-Austin TX)

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Corruption is when a person uses his official powers for private gain—for example, if Dick Cheney as Vice President had caused no-bid cost-plus contracts to be given to companies (such as Halliburton and KBR), that would be corruption. John Dunbar at the Center for Public Integrity points out one example:

A watchdog group has called for the investigation of the actions of an auto-dealing congressman who proposed an amendment that would exempt his industry from a safety requirement.

The amendment, which passed the House of Representatives, was offered just before midnight on Nov. 11. It allows automobile dealers to rent or loan out vehicles even if they are subject to safety recalls. Rental car companies, meanwhile, don’t get the same treatment under the proposed law.

It was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, a self-described “second-generation auto dealer.”

The Campaign Legal Center in a letter sent Monday urged the House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics to review Williams’ actions and also recommended changes to clarify House rules concerning recusal and conflicts of interest by members.

The request was prompted by a Center for Public Integrity report posted last week. The story was also posted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Texas Tribune.

“The specific actions of Rep. Williams must be reviewed for compliance with current rules, but even if he did clear his amendment with the Ethics Committee, his actions are a prime example of why the current rules are both too weak and in need of further clarification,” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director in a press release.

An email to Williams’ press aide was not immediately returned.

The rental car provision in the legislation, which is also in the Senate bill, was spurred by the deaths of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, ages 24 and 20. The two sisters were killed in 2004 while driving a rented, recalled vehicle that caught fire and crashed head-on into a semi, according to consumer groups that have backed the rental car proposal.

Williams’ amendment would make the act apply only to companies whose “primary” business is renting cars, which would effectively exclude dealerships. No such provision exists in the Senate bill.

Williams is chairman of Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM SRT in Weatherford. In his remarks on the House floor, Williams said the bill was bad for small businesses.

“Vehicles would be grounded for weeks or months for such minor compliance matters as an airbag warning sticker that might peel off the sun visor or an incorrect phone number printed in the owner’s manual,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Lois Capps of California didn’t agree with that reasoning, however.

“This is ridiculous. NHTSA (National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration) does not issue frivolous recalls,” she said. “All safety recalls pose serious safety risks and should be fixed as soon as possible.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2015 at 12:57 pm

Why didn’t the RCMP test the camera that met their criteria?

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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the federal police force in Canada, has claimed that they want to introduce body cameras, but they cannot find cameras that will pass their tests because they choose only cameras that don’t meet the criteria. For example, they require a camera with a 12-hour battery life, but for their tests they picked only cameras that could not meet that criterion. Could be they’re stalling…

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2015 at 12:51 pm

How the Chicago Police Department tried to cover up a police execution

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Curtis Black reports in the Chicago Reporter:

Laquan-McDonald

It was just about a year ago that a city whistleblower came to journalist Jamie Kalven and attorney Craig Futterman out of concern that Laquan McDonald’s shooting a few weeks earlier “wasn’t being vigorously investigated,” as Kalven recalls. The source told them “that there was a video and that it was horrific,” he said.

Without that whistleblower—and without that video—it’s highly unlikely that Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke would be facing first-degree murder charges today.

“When it was first reported it was a typical police shooting story,” Kalven said, where police claim self-defense and announce an investigation, and “at that point the story disappears.” And, typically, a year or 18 months later, the Independent Police Review Authority confirms the self-defense claim, and “by then no one remembers the initial incident.”

“There are an average of 50 police shootings of civilians every year in Chicago, and no one is ever charged,” said Futterman. “Without the video, this would have been just one more of 50 such incidents, where the police blotter defines the narrative and nothing changes.”

Last December, Kalven and Futterman issued a statement revealing the existence of a dash-cam video and calling for its release.  Kalven tracked down a witness to the shooting, who said he and other witnesses had been “shooed away” from the scene with no statements or contact information taken.

In February, Kalven obtained a copy of McDonald’s autopsy, which contradicted the official story that McDonald had died of a single gunshot to the chest. In fact, he’d been shot 16 times—as Van Dyke unloaded his service weapon, execution style—while McDonald lay on the ground.

The next month, the City Council approved a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, whose attorneys had obtained the video. They said it showed McDonald walking away from police at the time of the shooting, contradicting the police story that he was threatening or had “lunged at” cops. The settlement included a provision keeping the video confidential.

“The real issue here is, this terrible thing happened, how did our governmental institutions respond?” Kalven said.  “And from everything we’ve learned, compulsively at every level, from the cops on the scene to the highest levels of government, they responded by circling the wagons and by fabricating a narrative that they knew was completely false.”  To him this response is “part of a systemic problem” and preserves “the underlying conditions that allow abuse and shield abuse.”

In April, the Chicago Tribune revealed Van Dyke’s name and his history of civilian complaints—including several brutality complaints, one of which cost the city $500,000 in a civil lawsuit—none of which resulted in any disciplinary action. In May, Carol Marin reported that video from a security camera at a Burger King on the scene had apparently been deleted by police in the hours after the shooting.

“This case shows the operation of the code of silence in the Chicago Police Department,” said Futterman. “From the very start you have officers and detectives conspiring to cover up the story. The question is, why are they not being charged?”

Van Dyke’s history “also shows what happens when the police department consistently chooses not to look at patterns of abuse complaints when investigating misconduct charges,” he adds. This failure “is one of the reasons an officer like Van Dyke has an opportunity to execute a 17-year-old kid.”

Rather than acknowledging the systemic failures, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now trying to frame the issue as the action of one bad officer, as the Tribune reports.  “One individual needs to be held accountable,” he said Monday.

Kalven calls Emanuel’s “reframing” of the narrative “essentially false.” He points out that “everything we know now, the city knew from Day One. They had the officers on the scene. They knew there were witnesses. They had the autopsy, they had the video…. They maintained a false narrative about those events, and they did it for a year, when it could have been corrected almost immediately….They spent a year stonewalling any calls for transparency, any information about the case.” . . .

Continue reading.

Apparently nothing whatsoever will be done to police who gave false testimony about what happened and the police who destroyed evidence. The problem goes well beyond the individual police officer who has been indicted on a murder charge: the entire department seems to have colluded in covering up the crime. We should see more charges: obstruction of justice, accessory after the fact, and so on.

In the Guardian, Brandon Smith presents the video and the story of how he filed suit to get the video. From the story:

. . . The arm of government that investigates police misconduct here in Chicago, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), has found only one police shooting in the past five years to be “not justified”. This leaves all the others, nearly 400 shootings, to be considered “justified”. And it leaves the impression that police here sparkle with unicorn magic.

But communities of color know otherwise.

“It’s an all-out extermination campaign,” says William Calloway, my friend and the inspiration behind my initial FOIA request for the video. Before the lawsuit and before the request, Calloway told me that I should try to pry the video loose where a bunch of other news organizations (14, to be exact) had refused. As an activist, Calloway works with the families of victims of police violence.

“People need to know that Chicago has some of the most police shootings in America, and that more than 70% of them are perpetrated against people of color,” Calloway says, citing data uncovered by the Better Government Association and others. “People need to know that communities of color are policed differently, policed much more violently, than in predominantly white communities. And people need to know that police are not being held accountable. And all this needs to change.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel keeps implying that this incident is a one-off situation. But that’s wrong. And Emanuel hasn’t mentioned that others acted improperly that night, too. At least five other officers didn’t approach Laquan as he took his last breaths. Police deleted the parts of the surveillance tape from across the street that showed the murder. Witnesses have said that they were not interviewed about what they saw but rather told to leave at penalty of arrest.

Minutes later, police lied to a spokesperson preparing to brief reporters, saying that Laquan “lunged” at officers. (The video shows he was walking away from all officers.) And last but not least, an investigation into the shooting, led by Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez, should have taken weeks at most – not 13 months. Lest we forget, video showed what happened.

Everyone responsible for these situations deserves charges ranging from obstruction of justice to accessory to murder. Emanuel has yet to say anything except to condemn officer Van Dyke. He spent the vast majority of the press conference he held Tuesday singing the nonspecific praises of our city and our police officers. Even the answers to reporters’ pointed questions somehow pivoted to how great we’re doing as a city – at a press conference called to discuss police violence. . .

Chicago’s response to this incident shows a stubborn unwillingness to confront the problem, a determination to minimize incidents by ignoring how the entire system protects police who shoot black civilians, including by lying about what happened, destroying evidence, refusing to take any action unless forced, and in general by exerting the maximum effort to keep the system intact as it is, even if an occasional officer must be sacrificed by being a scapegoat, the role forced upon Van Dyke.

Rahm Emanuel personifies the unwillingness to confront the problem and recognize its true dimensions. His response to this incident exemplifies bad faith and a craven reluctance to accept the responsibilities of his position.

UPDATE: Black leaders in Chicago are (rightly) pushing for an investigation of the police department. (Link is to a story in the NY Times.) Rahm Emanuel should be leading the push rather than resisting it.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2015 at 10:04 am

Sandalwood all the way, almost

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SOTD 26 Nov 2015

I don’t know why I have a tendency to put Trumper lids upside down for the photo, but there it is again.

The Semogue Owners Club brush is very gradually breaking in. If I used it daily, it would of course be long since broken in. This morning it made a good lather with the Geo. F. Trumper sandalwood soap, a pre-reformulation tub that normally performs perfectly well. But once again by the third pass the lather was gone. Could be a loading issue, but the brush really did seem fully loaded. I reloaded with Savannah Sunrise, which was close at hand, and found I liked that lather better.

The RazoRock Black Mamba is quite a good razor for me: it feels quite mild, but the result is efficient removal of all stubble, leaving a BBS result.

A splash of Saint Charles Shave’s Sandalwood, and Thanksgiving day is upon us. This year, rather than a lot of cooking, we are going to a local restaurant for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Hope your holidays are good.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2015 at 9:39 am

Posted in Shaving

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